Los Angeles Dodgers: 6 Most Likely Candidates for Their Starting Rotation

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaFeatured Columnist IIIFebruary 13, 2012

Los Angeles Dodgers: 6 Most Likely Candidates for Their Starting Rotation

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers weren't as busy in free agency as cross-town rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this offseason, but with a tight budget, the Dodgers did well to add depth in their pitching rotation behind National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. Despite the loss of Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers still managed to add two able starters in Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.

    In addition to Harang and Capuano, the Dodgers are returning three of their starters from last season, which gives them a pretty favorable rotation going into 2012. Here are the six most likely candidates to start in the Dodgers rotation this season.

1. Clayton Kershaw

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    There's no question who the ace of this rotation will be in 2012. Kershaw was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball last season, with 21 wins and a 2.28 ERA that was the best in MLB.

    At just 23 years of age, Kershaw hasn't even hit the prime of his career yet, which makes him a valuable piece of the Dodgers for years to come.

    Another big season is in store for Kershaw in 2012, and the added help of Capuano and Harang will make things easier. I wouldn't be surprised if Kershaw put forth another strong showing worthy of a consecutive NL Cy Young.

2. Ted Lilly

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    For now, it appears that 36-year-old left-hander Ted Lilly will fill the second slot in the rotation over the younger Chad Billingsley.

    In 33 starts for the Dodgers, Lilly posted a 3.97 ERA and was third on the team in strikeouts with 158. Lilly's 12-14 record may not have shown it, but he had a strong outing in 2011. As the veteran pitcher of this rotation, Lilly won't be expected to to lead the NL in wins or strikeouts, but he will be relied upon to keep the Dodgers in games.

    Lily's ERA was good last season, but he's going to need help on offense if he wants to improve his record.

    As Lilly approaches the ripe age of 37, this may be one of the last remaining years left in his career, so look for him to give it all he's got in 2012.

3. Chad Billingsley

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    Billingsley did not pitch well in 2011, but the Dodgers are still showing confidence in their former first-round draft pick. Billingsley had a 4.21 ERA in 32 starts and was third in the NL with 84 walks.

    Before the emergence of Kershaw in 2008, Billingsley was the ace of the Dodgers pitching staff, but inconsistent seasons have caused his presence in the rotation to drop off towards the middle.

    Billingsley is only 27 years old and still has plenty of gas left in the tank, but he needs to pitch well next season if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation. Capuano and Harang could easily surpass him if they have better starts this season.

4. Chris Capuano

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    Capuano was the team leader in strikeouts with 168 as a member of the New York Mets, and his presence on the Dodgers is heavily needed with the departure of Kuroda to the New York Yankees.

    Capuano did not have a great season statistically, but playing on a struggling Mets team didn't exactly help that either. He did have his moments, though, when he pitched a complete-game shutout with 13 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves.

    Capuano could prove to be a big pickup for the Dodgers and provide them with a strong middle-of-the-rotation starter next season.

5. Aaron Harang

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    The Dodgers will be Harang's fourth team in nine seasons. As a member of the San Diego Padres in 2011, the 33-year-old had a 3.64 ERA to go along with a 14-7 record.

    The Dodgers were intent on signing Harang when they traded away Dana Eveland to the Baltimore Orioles. Harang is a luxury to have as a fifth starter considering he was a third starter in San Diego last season. As a fifth starter, Harang shouldn't start more than 30 games, which is good news for him considering he only started 28 games last season.

6. Rubby De La Rosa

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    22-year-old Rubby De La Rosa is a long shot to become the last starter of the rotation, but if the Dodgers feel they need to give starters an extra day of rest, then De La Rosa may be an option.

    Before his season was cut short due to an injury that required Tommy John surgery, De La Rosa pitched in 13 games, striking out 60 batters and posting a 3.71 ERA. Statistics have shown that pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery usually pitch better post-surgery. The starting rotation may stay at five for now, but De La Rosa could also fill a hole in case of injury.